The Order: 1886 is an awesome game that was sabotaged by the reviews

The Order: 1886 was my most anticipated game of 2015.  I had reserved it and endured a couple of delays before the game was finally released in February.  However,after reading the reviews, I canceled my reservation and never looked back, until recently.  The main reason I decided to skip was the allegedly short campaign, which was reported to clock in at around five hours.  Furthermore, the game was said to have very little gameplay and that players are forced to sit through overly long cutscenes the majority of the time.

I picked up the game a week ago. The $17 price tag was a huge motivator, but after beating the game last night, I realized that The Order: 1886 would’ve been worth the full price. It is absolutely one of the best games I have ever played.  All the negative criticisms I read about it are unfounded.  In fact, they are flat out lies.

Let’s start out with the game’s length.  I didn’t time myself, but my guess is that it took me around 6 to 7 hours to beat the game on normal difficulty level, counting all the cutscenes and retries.  That’s a short game by any standard.  However, the game does not feel short.  It seems just the perfect length and this is in large part due to its masterful pacing.  The transitions from cutscenes to gameplay and vice versa are seamless, which goes a long way towards making the entire experience just flow naturally.  The cutscenes and gameplay work hand in hand so that you never feel removed from what’s going on, regardless of whether or not what you see onscreen requires your controller inputs.  You feel connected at all times.  “Immersive,” is the word, and few games immerse you in its universe as deeply as The Order: 1886 does.  Not once did I feel impatient or anxious to take control of my avatar during the longer cinematic sequences, which brings me to my next point.

I didn’t measure the gameplay to cutscene ratio, but after beating the game, the impression I am left with is that it felt just right, so right, to the point where it never really mattered.  The whole campaign was just one flowing, seamless experience.  I’m not at all trying to dodge the question of how much “actual” gameplay there truly is, I just want to make it perfectly clear that you get plenty.  If you want actual numbers, I’d say you get 3 solid hours of pure gameplay on the normal difficulty setting.  However, “actual” gameplay is a tricky proposition.  What constitutes it?  Does it refer to all the times the game is responsive to your controller inputs, even if the only action you can perform is turn the camera?  Should you only count gameplay as “actual” when you’re in the middle of combat?  How about you count “actual” only at the precise moments you are performing combat actions such as pulling the trigger or diving out of a grenade’s blast radius?  What about when you’re walking from point A to point B like you so often do in Gears of War?  Should that warrant actual gameplay?  What if you are wandering aimlessly not sure where your next objective is?  Does that count as actual gameplay?  What about pushing crates and pulling levers?  You see, defining actual gameplay is not as straightforward as it may seem.

One of the most tragic things to have happened to The Order: 1886 is how people got hung up on its length.  Go on YouTube to find any walkthrough of similar games and you’ll discover that they’ll all fall within the 5-7-hour range.  But enough about length, it doesn’t matter how long a game is if the gameplay sucks, and the biggest crime committed by professional reviewers against The Order: 1886 is describing its gameplay as anything less than brilliant.

First off, it is a third person shooter.  It’s not an “interactive drama” nor is it trying to be anything else but a shooter.  This is an action game thru and thru, and boy does it deliver.  The aiming is tighter and more reliable than any Gears of War title.  The guns feel satisfyingly powerful, which is aided by varied and believable death animations of enemies that react according to where they got shot.  Their bodies interact convincingly with the environment as they fall.  The gunfights in The Order: 1886 reminded me of the climactic shootout in the movie Heat.  They were intense and chaotic but at the same time made you feel in complete control.  This is a tactical shooter at heart, cover system and all.  Then there are the melee attacks which I didn’t read to much about in any review.  The happen to be an integral part of combat and makes everything feel more complete.  A great deal was made about Gears of War’s chainsaw kills and in the sequels, the execution moves.  The Order’s are much more varied and contextual, with more elaborate animations.  Utilizing melee gives you a more well-rounded arsenal and a more visceral experience overall.  It gives you a sense of being a true warrior who’s willing to get his hands a little dirty.  It added a great deal to my enjoyment as it would to anyone who bothers with them.

The Order was also criticized for relying too much on quick time events, but they are far and few in between.  The QTE-centric one on one encounters against the stronger lycans give players more control than what the reviews suggest.  Half the time involves direct player input without any button prompt.  Also, people tend to forget that this is a shooter, not a brawler.  I’m thankful that they even managed to integrate melee-based boss fights.

Then there’s the story.  Almost every single review mentioned how The Order: 1886 just ends without any resolution, leaving more questions than answers.  Another false accusation.  Was everything resolved at the end?  Not at all, but though there is definitely plenty of work left to be done at the game’s conclusion, the immediate crisis was resolved and we see Grayson, the game’s protagonist, poised and primed to continue what he started as the credits begin to roll.  The story itself is among the most engaging I’ve ever played through, cliche’s and all, thanks in no small part to top notch voice acting and to the superb pacing that gave me a strong sense of progression as I played on.  I genuinely cared about the fate of each character towards the end of the story and can’t wait for the (hopefully) inevitable sequel.

Finally there’s the issue of replayability.  Almost every review agrees that The Order: 1886 has none, and I strongly disagree.  Most people associate replayability with multiplayer, collectibles, hidden paths and alternate endings.  Those are all valid but they are not the only criteria.  To me, TRUE replayability comes in the form of an experience so entertaining and engaging that you’d want to play the game multiple times just to relive the very same moments that you loved, over and over again.  If it takes a hidden trinket to motivate you to go back and play the game again, then I say the game wasn’t very good at all.  A truly great game makes you want to return to it in order to get the exact same experience you did the first time through, and this perfectly describes The Order: 1886.  Every battle was enjoyable and free of frustration, including the insta-fail stealth sequence late in the game.  I’ve replayed many games but this is the first one to not have any section that I would rather skip.  Everything just fits together to create one memorable adventure and I wouldn’t want to leave any piece of the puzzle out.  I made a huge mistake by listening to the biggest reviewers out there, even though from the beginning I knew that something was amiss.  I very easily could’ve missed out forever on The Order: 1886 but I’m glad I took the plunge and discovered a pearl.

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